The House of Uberbach, or The Change of Time (Page 2)
by Thom Savino
Continued from here.
Perhaps even more significant, (and equally and ironically transformed by being misconstrued) is Uberbach's more lasting legacy of the oft-used phrase, "Even a broken clock is right twice a day." That saying, legend says, has an interesting evolution. The story goes, that working in his shop in Bern, Uberbach simply asked a subordinate, "What time is it?" The worker went to a pile of clocks, looked at one and said, "It's half-past one." Hans noticed that his worker had walked to the pile of inoperable clocks all in need of repair. Uberbach said, "Look at one of the clocks on the walls in the back room, not the pile of clinkers, you dummkopf fly switcher".
Returning in seconds after looking at working clocks, the helper came back with the same answer, "It's a half-past one." Thinking his young assistant was too much a dummkopf, Hans angrily stomped off to see for himself. Indeed, each working clock read half-past one. He then asked the worker exactly which inoperative clock the boy first looked at for the time. The assistant brought that specific clock to Hans and sure enough it showed half-past one.
It was then that Hans Uberbach said, "Even a working clock is wrong some of the time." It seems Hans' dummkopf assistant, an ally of Hans' ex-wife, set all the clocks to Lucerne time when Uberbach's shop was in Bern. Ironically, it was the dummkopf who in his own defense replied, "Well, yeah, but even a broken clock's right twice a day." No stranger to malicious intent, Hans' claimed ownership of the phrase, which helped elevate him to membership in the Royal Court where he was given a fully equipped workshop high in the Alps. When asked why he was worthy of such reward by the royal family he donned the guise of religiosity saying, "God Alps those who Alp themselves" and professed to being a Bern again Christian.
Hypocritically, Hans routinely partook of the pleasures of prostitutes sent to him by the King. These ladies were sentenced to perform sexual favors (which they dubbed "Hans jobs" regardless of the act) indefinitely and had to remain within the confines of Uberbach's chalet. Given Uberbach's notoriety for clock making and their court-ordered confinement, the ladies would say they were, "Doing time." Sometimes the clock master just liked to spoon in bed with the women and on those nights relished by any one of the ladies of the evening she'd tell the others, "Time was on my side."
But, eventually, Uberbach's rise fell and his fortune like an old clock wound down. The king recalled Uberbach's ladies of pleasure and in town they'd mock him calling him the "clock sucker of Bern," a term particularly significant to them for all the times he made them "wind his clock," so to speak. It happened that his dummkopf assistant, tired of witnessing Hans' corrupt rise gathered all the other clock-maker assistants in Bern and formed the first labor union in the region. Unbeknownst to Uberbach, they planed to stop working, in unison, on a Wednesday exactly at the stroke of noon which, given the exact moment of communal punctuality when all the clock's arms hit twelve, became known, understandably, as a "strike."
Yet all was not over for the great clock man. He lived by the motto, "Everything may be ending, but not yet." He found three of his former whores, three Negro girls who liked to sing. Each had a wonderful voice, but together their sound was angelic. He taught them intricate harmonies like the workings of his old masterpieces and with his clock making experience, kept them in tempo with a fine metronome he made. He became their manager and they toured Europe most of the year as Switzerland's most popular Rhythm and Blues band The Oval Teens. Uberbach cashed in on their fame convincing a Swiss corporation to create and market a hot cocoa drink that bore the name of the famous girl group.
Today, a direct descendent of Hans, one Hazel Uber, continues the line of uncanny successes in the Uberbach lineage by asking an out-of-work friend for a lift in his car from Brooklyn to Staten Island. She offered him some money, which, he said, he wouldn't ordinarily consider taking but accepted in this case since he was out of work. Hazel opened a website, resourced out of work people with cars, and started a citizen's taxi service.
Thom Savino is the host of Savino Veritas.
Copyright © 2015 Kesteven Crescent Media in association with Thomas Savino.
All rights reserved. We are not responsible for the content of external links. | Cafe | Fab | Radio | Local